From Open Road to Tolls and Market Pricing

Your editorial "Fees For The Fast Lane" (March 17) on the idea of reducing traffic congestion through market pricing foretells part of the future of urban transportation.

Traffic congestion is one of America's most common aggravations. It reduces our quality of life and costs the United States economy over $50 billion each year in lost time. It is also bad for the environment, with tens of millions of idling cars, carrying the driver alone, spewing fumes into the air every day.

Because cities can no longer afford to endlessly build new roads, and because the public is mostly reluctant to ride public transit, transportation officials are turning to economic incentives to reduce traffic problems. Like long distance telephones rates, the idea is to charge people based on when and for how long they use the road. Early tests have significantly reduced congestion and are popular with the people who are paying for improved service.

Michael Cameron

Oakland, Calif.


The Environmental Defense Fund

Citizenship test cheats its students

The editorial "Politics at the INS" (March 13) not only hits the nail on the head but addresses a part of the citizenship mess that has been ignored.

That part is the dumbing down of the examination and preparation for the exam. In the Monitor's polite words, "the agency (INS) has allowed requirements for proficiency in English and for familiarity with American history and government to erode" - understatement of the year.

As a retired US citizenship teacher in the Los Angeles schools, this breaks my heart. Before the amnesty onslaught, citizenship classes met five hours a week for a semester. Students had to have basic English skills and be able to read and discuss the Declaration of Independence, a simplified version of the Constitution, as well as US history. I treasure memories of my bright, working adult students arguing over the Second Amendment, prayer in schools, and a dozen other subjects.

What the current one-day-rush-through-apply-and-memorize-25-common exam-questions will do to this country is criminal. It is cheating and ghettoizing the new citizens. They will proceed to the polls, where they will receive a bilingual ballot - the greatest oxymoron of them all.

Mary Meyer

Pasadena, Calif.

A red flag on teen suicide risks

As a longtime reader of the Monitor who works to reduce youth suicide in my own community, I was very interested in the National Report "Rise in Teen Suicides Spurs New Solutions" (March 5). However, I was stunned that discussion of one of the leading factors in teen suicide was omitted. In 1989, the United States Department of Health and Human Services determined that 30 percent of completed youth suicides are homosexuals. The results of this national study have been repeatedly confirmed by other studies in Massachusetts, Minnesota, Canada, and elsewhere.

Gay teenagers already have the same pressures and conflicts that nongay youths feel. They have the additional burden of society's prejudices. They fear rejection by friends and family. They feel different from their nongay peers, and they have little access to supportive friends and role models to help them through these challenges. They silently endure constant anxiety about being discovered as gay. They are subjected to verbal and physical abuse if they come out as gay.

All gay youth that I have ever talked to report that they have had gay feelings since they were very young. They don't know why and it is not a conscious decision.

I cannot explain society's irrational fear of homosexuality. But overcoming this prejudice would substantially reduce youth suicide.

Dennis J. Bobilyn, PhD

Portsmouth, N.H.

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